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Ink & Pixel: Drawing to a Close - A Personal Top 10 and Farewell

12.22.2016

Greetings ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct pleasure to welcome you to the final installment of my long-running animation exploration column, Ink & Pixel. First and foremost, I want to give a shout of thanks to anyone and everyone who has read, shared, and commented on my articles throughout the past several years. It’s been so much fun sharing my love of animation and special effects with you all since the feature’s debut back in June, 2012. As the column has evolved, so has my appreciation for the talented individuals whose creativity and talent played a hand in creating some of cinema’s greatest movie magic.

And so, in the spirit of going out with a bang, I would like to share with you a list of my Personal Top 10 Favorite Animated Features of All-Time! A lofty task for certain, this inventory of incredible films was no easy mission to complete. In truth, I agonized over the ordering of this thing for days. In the end, it came to this: after innumerable additions, deletions, and sacrifices, I’ve finally managed to craft a list that will permit me to sleep at night. Please remember that all lists of this nature are subjective, and that the following is a reflection of my time as an animation enthusiast, and my love for the medium. Enjoy!

MY TOP 10 FAVORITE ANIMATED FILMS OF ALL-TIME

10. PERFECT BLUE

Satoshi Kon’s masterpiece, PERFECT BLUE, is the mature-rated psychological drama that, in the year 1997, changed the way I thought about animation. For me, the unnerving journey through the mind and spiraling career of pop singer Mima Kirigoe was a wake up call, signaling to me that animation can indeed travel to some very dark places. Brilliantly written by Sadayuki Murai, PERFECT BLUE introduced me to a more salacious brand of storytelling within anime, and opened my eyes to the reprehensible treatment that can plague a young woman looking to make her transition from songstress to starlet. I’ll never forget the way I felt after viewing this film for the first time, and the introspective nightmare conversation with my friend that happened shortly thereafter.

9. BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE

Often striking me as an elaborate short-film rather than a feature-presentation, BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE speaks to so many of my sensibilities as someone who savors atmosphere and polish in his animation. At a run-time of just 45 minutes, this film packs one hell of a stylish punch to my senses with its epically jazzy score, masterful approach to violence, and a lead character that I feel is one of animation’s most capable badasses. I love the pacing of this movie, and how it excels at executing a fine balance between its bombastic and its more low-key moments. I also dig that the film teases viewers with barely a glimpse of Saya’s capabilities. Typically, a taste wouldn’t be enough, but in the case of this vampire-infested, Halloween-themed slaughterfest, I find the portions of moody mayhem versus ultraviolence to be just right.

8. TOY STORY 3

Anyone who tells you that they didn’t curl up into a fetal position, internally, when Andy passed ownership of  Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang on to young Bonnie, is a damn liar! Oh, the feels! Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the TOY STORY movies, but the third installment of the franchise hit me like a freight train. Beyond the film’s flawless execution of both story and character, TOY STORY 3 manages to send Pixar’s first and most beloved franchise into the unknown with an ending that is as touching as it is bittersweet. To this day, I can’t think of a computer-animated film series that has displayed a more nuanced and satisfying progression than the TOY STORY trilogy. Of course, we now know that a fourth adventure starring the ensemble cast of children’s toys will be coming our way in the Summer of 2019, but that has no bearing on my affinity for TOY STORY 3, and the timeless classic that I believe it to be.

7. THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE

We all have those movies that we love but feel are criminally underrated by the majority, and that’s Disney’s THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE for me. Endlessly quotable, this side-splitting take on The Prince and the Pauper never fails to put a big ol’ smile on my face, regardless of how many times I watch it. This movie also makes my list for a multitude of personal reasons. You know how there are certain films that remind you of your good friends or family? For me, this bizarre tale of looking inward, in an effort to uncover one’s true beauty, compels me to think of my best friend, Brendan. He and I have been trading laughs and movie quotes for years, many of which are derived from the antics of Emperor Kuzco, Pacha, Yzma, and that lovable dolt, Kronk. Additionally, this feature has prompted me to pursue an education in the art of speaking chipmunk, a talent that has proven itself to be invaluable, as the years have gone by. Don’t believe me? Try trespassing onto my property the next time you’re in town, I’m sure my adorable security system will find you delicious.

6. THE SECRET OF NIHM

I’m not going to lie, it was no easy task to decide which animated feature from my childhood would secure its very own spot on this list. For real, there’s just so damn many of them. However, very few of them have come close to offering me the dark majesty of Don Bluth’s THE SECRET OF NIHM. As a child, I can recall being captivated by the heart and heroism of Mrs. Brisby (or Frisby if you’re O.G.). I remember thinking, “Damn, here’s this tiny field mouse, risking life, limb, and sanity in an unprecedented act of a mother’s love for her children.” Then, in my second year of college, I made a discovery. If you start playing the songs “Disposition”, “Reflection” and “Triad”, by the band Tool, in the moments right before Mrs. Birsby’s home is hoisted out of the mud, they sync together perfectly. I’m not kidding, it’s some straight up “Dark Side of Oz” shit, man. Anyway, my undying love for this movie was a done deal after I unearthed that auditory gem.

5. PARANORMAN

Over the past several years, I’ve often used my Ink & Pixel introductions to tell you a little about myself. One subject in particular I’ve given the details on time and again is my Horror film upbringing. We didn’t watch family flicks that left you feeling soft and gooey in my house. No, we watched movies like THE SHINING, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and PET SEMETARY. It’s not a stretch to think that this behavior left me with a few screws loose, but one thing’s for sure, it’s because of my frightful film history that I connected with PARANORMAN so completely. By far and away my favorite animated offering from the geniuses at Laika Studios, this terrifying tale of a dyed in the wool Horror fanatic, who can see and talk to dead people, is pretty much my stop-motion spirit animal. I love the bold and wild colors displayed through the lighting of this film. I also giggle and nod to myself every time I catch wind of yet another clever Easter egg that references the slashers and thrillers that no doubt served to inspire PARANORMAN’s creation. In the end, it all comes together in a visually dazzling and heartfelt finale, with a message that tells you it’s okay to let go. Perfection.

4. MONSTERS INC.

Heh. How’s about we do one more trip down memory lane for this one? You know, for old times sake. When I was young, I would actively search for monsters in my closet and underneath the bed. It wasn’t because I was afraid of them, but rather that  I wanted so desperately for them to be real. At the tender age of just eight-years-old, my aim in life was to be Fred Savage’s character from the movie LITTLE MONSTERS. Eventually, I came to terms with the harsh truth that there is no alternate monster dimension … that we know of. For me, this emotionally-charged and adventuresome film fulfills my every want for hilarious hijinks, endearing characters, and a rock-solid world-building narrative. While many groaned at the announcement of MONSTER’S UNIVERSITY, I was the guy who was cheering my ass off for it. Honestly, I’d like to see them do one more. In fact, check out the Extra Tidbits section of this article for my idea of how they can end the series with one last sequel.

3. SUMMER WARS

What? Don’t furrow your brow at me. This list is supposed to be subjective, remember? Because damn right SUMMER WARS is my number three pick! Maoru Hosoda’s technological thriller about honor, doomsday scenarios and family values is by leaps and bounds one of the most stunning examples of animation I’ve ever seen. The color palette of this film pulls from every visible point of light in the spectrum, and does it with unwavering aplomb. The action that transpires both in and outside of the Second Life-like network of Oz has this flowing, kinetic electricity to it that is just amazing. Additionally, I really enjoy the way this movie approaches the hubris of humankind, and how our vanity could be the cause for our own destruction. In my opinion, SUMMER WARS is the type of movie you show someone who’s had little to no exposure to anime. Between the exciting plot, heart-string-tugging romance of Kenji and Natsuki, and the lessons to be learned from its harrowing twists and turns, this film is a shining example of how amazing Japanese animation can be.

2. SPIRITED AWAY

The first time I saw Hayao Miyazaki’s SPIRITED AWAY was at the Cinema Arts Center in Huntington, New York. It’s this little sovereign theater in the village district that primarily screens independent and foreign films. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing a Miyazaki film on the silver screen, but for this animation hound, it was quite the momentous occasion. I fell in love that day. Chihiro’s journey into a magical world of witches, spirits, and mystery enraptured me. As I sat there, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, I was reminded of so many timeless fantasy films from my youth. When Yubaba threatens Chihiro’s life, I can’t help but recall Angelica Houston’s stellar performance as Ms. Eva Ernst in THE WITCHES. When Haku reveals his true form I imagine myself riding atop Falcor from THE NEVERENDING STORY. And when Chihiro finally returns home, I remember Sarah’s victory over Jareth in Jim Henson’s THE LABYRINTH. For me, it’s not about whether a movie adheres to the unwritten rules of good filmmaking, its quality resides in how it makes you feel. Miyazaki’s SPIRITED AWAY always takes me to my cinematic happy place, and leaves me feeling real good long after the credits have stopped scrolling.

1. THE SWORD IN THE STONE

This is it, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! I’d like you all to put your hands together for my favorite animated film of all-time, Disney and Wolfgang Reitherman’s Arthurian classic , THE SWORD IN THE STONE! Where do I even begin? I suppose I should start with mentioning that my two favorite animated characters of all-time (Archimedes and Merlin) are both featured in this film filled with history, sorcery, and the importance of a good education. For my money, it doesn’t get any better than when Archimedes, the Highly Educated Owl, huffs and puffs his way through nearly every conversation he has with the wise and well-traveled Merlin the Magician. I love the depth of Arthur’s odyssey, and how a multitude of valuable life lessons are a part of Merlin’s instruction.

As a seemingly defenseless fish, Arthur is given a harsh Darwinian lesson in the concept of “survival of the fittest” when facing off against a much larger aquatic monstrosity patrolling the moat. He's urged to use his brain rather than brawn to outsmart the beast – something I believe we all could stand to be reminded of from time to time. Next, as a scampering squirrel, the future king learns that matters of the heart are just as perilous as any war fought with fire and steel. There's nothing like breaking your first heart. Be it animal or man, losing that elated feeling toward another living being will shape you for the remainder of your days. Lastly, there's the lesson in which Arthur is transmogrified into a bird, and must learn to accept help from others if he's to survive the perils and pitfalls of a familiar environment turned to one of panic and horror.

If that’s not the makings of an incredible animated film than I should have been fired a long time ago! My appreciation for this movie goes beyond Merlin’s teachings, though. It’s also about the score; those ethereal hymns, the boom and clank of the orchestra. And so help me if I delight in wiping the tears from my eyes each and every time I see Archimedes giving his opinion about man one day taking to the skies in flight. It’s an underdog’s tale that emphasizes brains over brawn, light conquering the opposing darkness, and high fantasy - all flawlessly presented in that classic Disney package. For me, it doesn’t get any better than that.

* Record Scratch *

Hey, hello, it's me again. Yeah, did you really think I was going to end this thing by offering you nothing more than a Top 10 list? Fool! I'm not giving up the ghost of this platform just yet! So, without further ado, I'd also like to present you with my ...

MY TOP 5 ANIMATED SERIES OF ALL-TIME

5. AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER / THE LEGEND OF KORRA

When these epic Nickelodeon television series combine, the result is one of the most rewarding and refreshing animated experiences I’ve ever had in recent history. These programs play host to a spoil of unforgettable characters, creatures, and ideologies that have set the bar for anyone who dares to follow in its footsteps.

4. THE SIMPSONS

Okay, let’s do the list. Yes, THE SIMPSONS is better than FAMILY GUY. The best seasons of the long-running, award-winning series are 3-7. Yes, I also love FUTURAMA, but THE SIMPSONS is better than that show, too. My favorite characters are Mr. Burns, Homer, Chief Wiggum, Grandpa Simpson, and Mrs. Crabapple. My favorite line from the show, ever, is “No one suspects the butterfly.” And yes, there’s a comments section down below where you can tell me how wrong I am about all of this. Kisses!

3. NEON GENESIS EVANGELION

Hideaki Anno’s mind-bending legendary tale of children and mechanized …. Ahhhhhhh, I’m not going to spoil that for you. After all, discovering what the Eva units actually are and why Shinji, Asuka, and Rey are the only ones who can pilot them is half the fun! In short, this series grabbed at the top of my skull, ripped it clean open, and shat on my brain to absurd proportions. Do you remember, earlier in this article when I told you that Archimedes and Merlin are my two favorite animated characters of all-time? Well, Asuka Langley Soryu is my third. What? You think that’s strange? Do yourself a favor and watch beyond the initial series run. Perhaps then you’ll pick up what I’m putting down. It’s al about the Death & Rebirth follow-ups, baby!

2. BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES

So yeah, I know that BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM didn’t make it to the Top 10 Features list, but here we are at the coveted number two spot with the whole dang series! How can I not honor the brilliant Warner Bros. after-school program that gave us the debut of Harley Quinn, the iconic score of Danny Elfman, and the best iteration of the Joker in film history? As a lifelong fan of the bat, I can’t think of a better way to offer my thanks to Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, and Paul Dini than by placing this miraculous achievement in animation near the very top of this list.

1. LOONEY TUNES

Ah, the characters, capering and comedy that started it all for me. Would I even be here writing this today without the clever ruses of Bugs Bunny, the narcissistic ramblings of Daffy Duck, or the lessons in love from Pepé Le Pew? The answer is probably not. As I’m sure that other cartoons had piqued my interest before Warner Bros. LOONEY TUNES, this was the animated property that started it all for me. I will forever cherish the talent, art, and wisdom of contributors the likes of Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and the countless men and women who helped make the storied legacy of Merry Melodies a reality. It’s not much, but I’d like to think that my little column has served to honor their memories and hard work throughout the years.

Once again, I’d like to thank you all for helping me make Ink & Pixel such a success over these past couple of years. I’d like to think that we had a lot of fun, and perhaps learned a thing or two along the way. For now, I’ll be moving on to my new position here at Joblo as a News Editor, among other things. With that, I suppose there’s nothing left to say but ...

Extra Tidbit: My pitch for MONSTERS FINALE: A bitter rival from Sullivan's past returns, and in a fit of rage kidnaps our big, blue friend. Shortly thereafter, Mike gets word of the dastardly abduction, and quickly gathers Sully's nearest and dearest. It's time to mount a rescue mission! With all willing monsters assembled and ready for action, there's only one thing left for Mike to do ... give a now 16-year-old Boo the news, and wait for her to pack a bag for one last adventure.
Source: joblo.com

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